The Secret Child, Part 1

Imagine holding a secret inside you that’s buried so deep no one has any idea it’s there, yet it comes to the surface almost on a daily basis, only to be looked at, remembered, and then buried again.

Imagine finally telling that story, after twenty five years of carrying it by yourself, to only one person. And being terrified that by telling it, you may lose that one person in your life that you can’t live without.

But you know you have no choice, if you’re going to make this relationship work. So you take that chance.

This is Elizabeth’s story, as told to me a few years ago by her husband, the man she finally trusted to tell her story to. And re-told here, of course, with their permission.

Elizabeth was raised in an era in which babies weren’t born to unmarried women. It just wasn’t done. There were many hastily arranged marriages back then, especially in small towns, with parents crying real tears for lots of reasons. Sadly most of those marriages didn’t last.

Or instead of marrying, if they could, many times young girls would travel to visit a “distant relative” for several months for a change of scenery. Usually everyone knew why, but said nothing.

Elizabeth grew up in a medium sized town, where, fortunately, not everyone always knew everyone else. She was not quite 20 years old, a college sophomore living at the time about two hours away from her hometown, when she found herself pregnant. Marrying the baby’s father was not an option.  In fact, she didn’t even tell him. He was already in a relationship with someone else; she certainly didn’t love him, so why would she decide to have him in this child’s life – and hers?

But she also knew she wasn’t ready to have a child. She had her education to finish. She also knew this news would devastate her parents, as much as they loved her. Their embarrassment and disappointment in her would be too much for her to bear.

At that time abortion had just become legal throughout the country. Sure, she briefly considered it, but she also knew she could never ever do that. Kill the life growing inside her? Not even give this baby a chance at life? No. She couldn’t live with herself if she did that. But she also knew she couldn’t raise a child right now, especially on her own.

So she made plans, and told her parents she’d be spending the summer with a girlfriend in another state while doing an internship for school. Although somewhat disappointed they wouldn’t see their daughter over the summer break, they were excited about her opportunity. And they totally supported her.

Little did they know….

Elizabeth had already contacted an attorney who specialized in private adoption. She met with that attorney on several occasions, exploring her options. And she made the difficult decision to have the baby and have it placed in a family of her choice.

“She told me it was the most difficult decision she’d ever made,” her husband told me. “She knew she’d never see the child again, or know anything about him or her, because that’s how adoption was handled then. She knew there’d always be a part of her that was missing, but she also told me she couldn’t have lived with herself if she’d aborted that child. And I greatly respected her courage and the choice she made. And I told her so, as she cried when she finished her story.”

Elizabeth read the stories about each of the families who’d registered with her attorney to be considered as adoptive parents. She looked through pictures of these potential parents for her child, trying to decide who to choose, because in those days, adoptive parents and birth mothers rarely ever met, and she couldn’t handle that anyway.

She finally selected a family who’d been on the adoption list for several years. The woman had her coloring, her height. The man slightly resembled the child’s father, so she figured there’d be less questions as he or she grew up. Both potential parents had college degrees, which was important to her, because they would most likely be able to adequately provide for her baby, and make sure that child received a good education as well.

As a mother, and now a grandmother, I cannot imagine the thoughts going through Elizabeth’s mind as she reviewed potential parents to raise the child she was carrying. She knew she’d see her baby just one time, hold that precious little one just once, and then with a first and last kiss, hand her child over to a nurse who would then take him/her to the parents she’d selected.

What a brave, loving, and totally unselfish act. And I’m sure she wondered if she could really go through with it when it was time. If she’d have the courage to hand her child over and entrust his/her life to strangers.

But she knew she had no choice, and it was the most loving thing she could possibly do.

She also knew her life would be changed forever.

Her attorney helped her make plans to stay at a home for unwed mothers, as they were called those many years ago. When her college classes ended at the beginning of the summer, Elizabeth went to stay for those last several months of her pregnancy with several other young women in her same situation.

“She won’t talk about those months,” said her husband. “I think they were just too hard for her to remember. Here she was, pregnant, surrounded by people she didn’t know, and getting ready to do one of the hardest things she could ever do. But I admire her greatly for her decision.”

Elizabeth did take a couple of college classes while she was waiting to give birth, which probably helped pass the time, as well as take her mind off what was to come.

And then the day came. Nervous, scared, and not knowing what to expect, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. She looked at him, and loved him immediately. She hesitated for a moment, tears in her eyes as she kissed him hello and goodbye, and tearfully handed him over to the waiting nurses.

But she never forgot. And she always wondered.

 

And yes, there is a “rest of the story.” Read “The Secret Child, Part II,” to be published here on February 2.

Running on Empty…or Just Running?

Most of us of a certain age are familiar with the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” in which Julia Roberts portrays Maggie, a young woman who really wants to be in love and happily married, but every time she gets set to walk down the aisle to marry the man she thinks is the man of her dreams, she turns and runs away as fast as she can. In her wedding gown, leaving her bewildered fiancé alone at the altar.

This romantic comedy, actually filmed in a small town a few miles from where I grew up, of course had a happy ending. After all, Maggie knew she wanted to be in a happy, committed relationship; it just took her awhile to find that right person who could ease her fears of rejection and give her the confidence to make a marriage work.

But so many times it doesn’t work that way.

Because we’ve been hurt so badly, and have so many scars and bruises, we form a shell around our heart that’s so hard, almost nothing – or no one – can break it.

And those scars, those terrible memories, keep flooding back to us when we’re getting comfortable in a relationship, when we finally think this one will work. And all of a sudden the bad memories outweigh the new happy ones we’re making. To the point we become so scared of being hurt again, we’d rather give up and be alone, bury ourselves in other interests, in order to avoid the slightest possibility of being hurt again.

Sure, our friends are happy with their husbands or wives, but we tell ourselves we’re happy just the way we are. We go places with them, have a great time, and then go back home, by ourselves, and wonder why we can’t find what they’ve found. Surely that happiness exists somewhere? But then we remember those other, really bad times, and grab a book and read til we fall asleep.

All too often men and women both are so afraid their past mistakes, their past hurts, will repeat themselves, they’d rather give up than try, because giving up doesn’t hurt as much as failure. Trust is hard to earn, and harder to give, especially when past relationships ended badly.

But running away isn’t the answer either. Running as a sport may be healthy, but running from problems or perceived problems isn’t. Facing them is hard; letting yourself trust and love again is even harder.

When I met my husband of 32+ years, I was just coming out of a second and disastrous marriage, and the last thing I wanted was another relationship. In fact, I’d decided I was done, and wanted nothing to do with dating, and certainly not another serious relationship. My trust factor was gone, and I didn’t want to revive it.

Fortunately my now husband eventually convinced me to trust again, to love again, and to stop running FROM and start running TO.

No, it isn’t easy. There are always going to be a lot of twists and turns!

Guarding your heart is a good idea, because you don’t want to give it away to just anyone. But in the same context if you hold on to it and never give it to anyone, your heart will eventually waste away. Love is meant to be shared with someone else, and no matter how badly you were hurt previously, your heart still longs to try again and take a chance.

It’s your head that’s preventing it. Your memories of those bad times you’d rather forget, and every time your heart ventures out of its comfort zone to possibly love again, your head grabs it and locks it up again. And eventually your heart gives up.

While your head wonders why you’re so lonely.

We weren’t created to be solitary people. We were created to be with someone we love. We make mistakes, and sometimes we get hurt. But that shouldn’t mean we don’t try again.

Because that person we were created for, we were meant to be with, could just possibly be standing there waiting to love us. And we miss it because of fear.

I could’ve missed it. Thank goodness I didn’t.

If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to put those emotional running-away shoes away and let your heart venture out again. To give it a try one more time.

And instead of running away, run somewhere together. Take a short run at first, then gradually make those runs a bit longer.

You may be surprised at the results.

The Expense of a Second Chance

It’s something very few of us actually think about. Until it happens to us.

What does the word transplant mean to you? What emotions does it evoke?

Have you ever really thought about it? What it really means? What has to happen in order to have an organ transplant?

It’s probably been 15 years or so since I first came in contact with organ donation. A coworker’s husband had had extremely serious heart problems for years, and his heart had weakened until his only chance at long term survival was receiving a new heart. He had been on a list for a new heart for quite some time, and was growing weaker by the day. We had all been hoping that a heart would come in time to save his life.

And it did.

But it didn’t.

The heart arrived, but it arrived later than it should have. And at that point the surgeons had no choice but to begin transplant surgery and hope the new heart, which was also starting to fail, would miraculously revive itself enough to save this man’s life. Because his own heart just wouldn’t last any longer.

And three weeks later the donor’s heart, which had tried so hard to continue the life-giving miracle its previous owner and its family had wished for, gave out, and our friend’s husband passed away, never regaining consciousness after the transplant procedure.

There were no words that any of us, especially John’s widow, could say to express our thoughts, our feelings. The miracle of a second chance had failed.

Now fast forward to a few short months ago, when a coworker of my husband’s underwent a lifesaving kidney transplant. In this situation the donor was delighted to be able to give the gift of her kidney to someone who desperately needed it. Because that person who needed it was her father. As she said, she had two working kidneys, and only needed one, so she was happy to give a gift of life to one of the people who’d help give her life. And both donor and recipient are doing fine!

However, when the actual organ donation hits home, when you or a loved one faces an organ donation procedure, your mind goes in so many directions at one time that you don’t know which direction to walk in. Especially if it’s a procedure involving an organ that is only harvested due to the death of someone else.

A little over three years ago my husband was told his left eye, which had experienced countless bouts of infections for over twenty years was getting so bad that he needed a partial cornea transplant in order to save his sight in that eye. “We do them all the time,” said his doctor. “We regularly schedule the transplants once a month.” And the office routinely set him up for the procedure on the next scheduled transplant day of the month.

And suddenly, as Ben and I discussed it that night, the realization of what was actually involved in that procedure hit me like a ton of bricks.

In order for his sight to be saved, someone had to lose their life, because a cornea is not an organ you offer to donate because you have two of them. Yes, I knew that. In fact, Ben and I are both registered as organ donors, and have been for years. It’s something we both strongly believe in.

But to suddenly be in the position of an organ recipient, or should I say the wife of a recipient, I have to say that was a different matter when I actually thought about the entire procedure.

Suddenly I found myself thinking about the whole process in an entirely different way. Especially when we got a call the day before the scheduled procedure canceling it, because no cornea was available, something the doctor’s office told us almost never happened.

In reality, that meant someone hadn’t died in order to donate their eyes. We had to wait again. Until someone died.

As a Christian, how do you pray over that? You certainly don’t want to pray for someone to die. But for the majority of organ transplants, that’s what happens. Someone has to die in order for those organs to be donated, or in our case, to save someone’s sight.

It’s a sobering thought. One you don’t think about until you’re in that place. I can’t even begin to describe it.

Then we got another call a few days later. They were rescheduling the procedure because they had a cornea.

Someone had died.

And I suddenly found myself praying for the person’s family, for consolation and comfort. For them to know their loved one had contributed so greatly to the lives of others, because most likely the donor gave more than the gift of sight to my husband. Most likely the donor gave other organs as well, and I prayed those recipients would be as thankful as we were for the opportunity for a second chance.

And yes, I wondered about the donor. Who he or she had been; how old they were; what caused their death; and if their life had been everything they’d hoped it would be.

We’ll never know.

We’ve read about heart transplant recipients meeting the families of those whose heart they received, and the emotions it evokes, knowing a part of that person still lives inside someone else. That must be a wonderful experience if both families can handle it, but personally I know I couldn’t.

It’s an individual choice. Just as organ donation is an individual choice.

But it is a gift of life; a gift of a second chance. I’ll always wonder who it was who gave my husband the gift of restored sight in that eye. And both of us will always be grateful for that gift, even as we remember at what cost it was given.

 

 

Author’s note: If you are already registered as an organ donor, thank you. If not, please consider it. Visit DonateLife America for more information.

The Longest 60 Seconds

Sixty seconds isn’t really a very long time. Not in the entire scheme of things. Sure, it may feel like a long time when you’re on hold on a phone conversation, or you’re waiting for traffic light to change, or if you’re waiting for a loved one at the airport who you haven’t seen in a long time.

Or if you’re sitting in an emergency room cubicle with your husband who’s just been rushed there by ambulance because he passed out at home three times within ten minutes. Fortunately the ambulance drivers had called ahead and the ER staff had a cubicle set up for him with every monitoring device imaginable, as well as IV’s, meds, and a portable defibrillator. And we watched as they wasted no time hooking him up to all of it.

One minute you’re talking to him, and the next you’re watching him as his eyes roll back in his head, and he’s gagging for breath. While his heart monitor suddenly registers nothing. And the ER staff is so busy trying to save him they don’t even have time to ask you to step out of the cubicle into the hall. All you can do is sit there with your daughter, frozen to your chair. Not believing what you’re seeing.

Those sixty seconds become forever. And even longer. All you can do is pray that he’ll survive and be okay. There’s absolutely no time to think; no time to cry; and no time to scream. Time totally stands still as your life with your loved one flashes before your eyes, and you don’t know whether the movie playing in your mind of your life together will have any more scenes in it.

We lived that scenario a little over three years ago. And I would never ever wish that on anyone else. Ever. It’s a time when you have nothing at all to go on except your faith.

It wasn’t the first time I’d gone through heart problems with my husband, but it was definitely the worst; the most serious; the one that was life-threatening…and life changing.

Not even a year after we were married, my husband started experimenting chest pains. Typical of a young man, he ignored them and never mentioned it until one night after returning home from a concert he casually told me what had been going on. Let me just say we were quickly in the local hospital emergency room!

The next day we discovered his aortic heart valve was leaking, which necessitated open heart surgery to replace the valve. I was terrified that I’d be a widow before my first wedding anniversary, and was never so relieved when he came through the surgery with no problems. Bear in mind, this was 32 years ago, and heart surgery was not nearly as common as it is now. And although it’s still a scary prospect, it’s a procedure that’s dramatically advanced since that first surgery.

Natural replacement heart valves don’t last forever, though, and 16 years later the procedure was performed again, replacing the pig valve with a bovine (cow) valve. It was still a bit unnerving, but nothing like that first time. His recovery, fortunately, was much quicker as well.

But that moment in the ER almost ten years later when he literally was dying in front of me and our newly engaged daughter was the worst moment, and the longest 60 seconds, of my life.

There are bits and pieces from that long minute we both remember, although they’re much more vivid to me. But the most memorable, at least to him, was the young doctor who looked straight at him during the ordeal and said, “Mr. Newell, you aren’t going to die on my watch!”

And he didn’t, thank you, Lord!

Although he does joke about it now, and says he should’ve asked her how long her watch was for! But right then, at that moment, no one was laughing.

We came very close to losing him that morning. Closer than I ever want to think about. The ambulance personnel had left their EKG strips in there with him, and when a friend of ours who had been on the rescue squad for many years saw them and read them, she told us how close it had really been.

Another 60 seconds and it could’ve been a different story.

The very next day we walked out of the hospital, Ben with a newly implanted pacemaker, and me with a very grateful heart and a huge answered prayer. Thankfully God still had plans for my husband. Plans for him to be able to walk our daughter down the aisle at her wedding the following year. Plans for him to meet his first granddaughter who arrived a year after that wedding.

And I am convinced there are many more plans we don’t even know about.

Sixty seconds can be just a short stretch of time, but it can also be the longest day of your life.

Sixty seconds can be a life-changing experience. You just don’t know when it will happen.

Saying Goodbye to Herbie

I grew up an only child. Not by my parents’ choice, but it’s just how it was. We lived just outside the town limits of my little hometown, with not a lot of neighbors, especially ones with children my age, nearby.

I had the opportunity to play with other kids, at church, or when my mom would have lunch with some of her friends who had children close to my age, but a lot of the first years of my life was spent doing things with my mother. She was a stay at home mom, like most of the mothers were then, so we spent a lot of time together, playing, reading, and of course her letting me “help” her in the kitchen. Which is a whole other story, for another day!

And like many children who grew up without brothers or sisters, I missed out on having that special person close to my age to play with, to share stories with, and of course to blame when something went wrong!

So along came Herbie. Now I have no idea where Herbie came from, or even where the name came from. But Herbie quickly became my very best friend in the world. And obviously Herbie moved in with us at some point.

We’d play dolls together, and have tea parties. We’d build things with blocks, and sometimes Herbie would knock them over, and then my friend would really get scolded by me. Which meant Herbie would have to pick them up and rebuild our creation as I directed where every block was to be put!

My mother had to set a place at the table for Herbie as well. In fact, one time my dad accidentally sat on Herbie when we all sat down to eat, and poor Herbie was quite upset! Now Herbie didn’t eat what we ate, but there was certainly imaginary food for Herbie on those plates, because I’d have to fuss at my friend to make sure that plate was cleaned, or else no dessert! And I meant it, too!

Of course Herbie went almost everywhere I did, and several times when we went shopping, Herbie would almost get stepped on by one of the salespeople in the department store, and I’d have to set them straight, so it wouldn’t happen again. After all, Herbie could’ve gotten hurt.

Herbie even slept with me, and when I had to have a stuffed toy to sleep with, well, you guessed it…so did Herbie! Of course, when my mother read me a story, Herbie had to have one too, and of course Mom had to sing each of us a different lullaby every night before we could go to sleep.

Herbie didn’t stay around forever though. Once I started school my friend just sort of faded away, replaced by school friends and cousins. Gradually the memory of Herbie was sort of lost, at least to me.

But my mother remembered it all, and told me stories about Herbie and me on many different occasions. She even wondered if my daughter Ashley, also an only child, would have a friend like Herbie. (She didn’t; Herbie was one of a kind.)

Because, you see, Herbie was my imaginary friend, who lived for several years in my child’s very active imagination. I don’t know what my friend looked like. I don’t even know if Herbie was a boy or a girl. I guess I never even told my mother, or else it really wasn’t important to me, because at that age, a friend is a friend, and it really didn’t matter.

Children are quite imaginative. They can create the most wonderful stories, because children aren’t limited by conventional adult thought processes. To them, unicorns really do exist. Animals can talk, and we can carry on conversations with them. Birds can swim, and fish can fly. You really can catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. And dreams really do come true.
As I got older, the imaginative side of me faded, and went dormant. The animals stopped talking, the stars stayed in the sky. And my dreams were but a distant memory.

Like I had done many years before, I had said goodbye to Herbie.

But I know Herbie is still around. The Herbies of the world don’t ever really go away. We just stop paying attention to them, stop talking to them. We ignore them until they go away and find someone else who’ll appreciate them, who’ll nourish them and keep them alive.

Although I said goodbye to Herbie years ago, I’m sure my friend is still around, and most likely still living somewhere in my hometown, probably still in the attic at my mother’s former house, and hopefully Herbie has already befriended the kids who live there now.

And one day, I hope my friend is able to find me once again and come back for a visit. We’ll have a tea party, and talk to the animals, and catch a falling star or two.

I’ll enjoy saying hello to Herbie again.

Hidden Lives

Almost all of us have them, or have had them at one time, in one form or another. Secrets we don’t want others to see. Secrets that are so embarrassing and hurtful that we sometimes tell ourselves those secrets aren’t even ours; they’re someone else’s; we just THINK they’re ours. Then we stand by and gasp in horror as we hear how someone we know and care about has fallen from grace; has hurt someone they love in such a bad way we don’t know how they’ll recover from it.

Then we go back to our own secret lives and say…but that’s different. I’m not really hurting anyone by doing this thing or that. After all, who really knows about it anyway? And as long as no one else knows, except maybe one or two other people who won’t say anything anyway, it’s not hurting anyone, right?

Those secrets can be so many things. As simple as shoplifting and never getting caught when you were a teenager. Cheating on a test in high school or college. Hitting another car when no one was around and telling your parents or your spouse you came out to the parking lot and found it like that.

Or much more serious secrets. Cheating on your spouse, or cheating with someone else’s spouse. Illegal drug use or even dealing. Secret drinking or even alcoholism. Embezzlement or other stealing from your workplace. Pornography. Prostitution. Failure to pay your bills because your money is going to gambling or other illicit activities. The list of hidden lives can go on and on, and many people may have even more than one secret life they’ve buried.

On the outside everything looks perfect. We go to work as usual, and usually put on a really good front. We take care of our families and go to our children’s sports events and concerts. Go out with friends. Go to church, sometimes even being in a position of ministry. In fact, because we do so much good, we sometimes don’t even consider that those hidden lives are wrong.

But if your spouse knew what was going on behind his/her back, most likely that spouse wouldn’t be your spouse much longer. How would your friends and family feel if you were suddenly arrested for dealing drugs, selling pornography, or dabbling in prostitution? If your employer discovered what you’d been doing behind his back, do you think you’d still have that job; do you think you’d not have to face the consequences, including possible jail time? If your family knew the bills weren’t being paid, how would they feel, knowing their lives were only an inch or two away from being turned upside down and their ending up on the street?

Think about it. If those lives have to be hidden, doesn’t it mean that maybe, just MAYBE, there’s something wrong? We think no one sees our hidden lives, and we’re quite happy about that. Relieved, even. Because we like to keep our little secrets, don’t we? After all, who are we really hurting as long as no one else knows what’s going on?

We even think we’ll never be found out, and that we can end that hidden life any time we want to. But we don’t. Because it’s too much fun. It’s a break from the boring routine life has become; it makes us feel better about ourself; or it’s a way to potentially make some extra much-needed cash we won’t have to share with anyone, or pay taxes on!

But we’re wrong. Someone does see those hidden lives….has seen them from the time that hidden life, or lives, started. Our conscience sees them, knows they’re there, knows what we’ve been hiding is wrong. But we tell it to be quiet, because we know what we’re doing, and we KNOW we can handle it.

Those hidden lives only get stronger the longer we live them; the longer we try to keep them hidden. And sooner or later, they’re going to break out, and stop being hidden. Because they will destroy the life we’re currently trying to live, or make everyone believe we’re living. The world will then see what’s been hidden, and then what will we do?

The things we keep hidden, whether they’re thoughts in our mind we don’t want to acknowledge, or something we’ve done in our past that we hope no one ever discovers, or an entire other life we’re living in secret…these things will eventually destroy from within. And as they destroy us, they will also destroy the ones we love.

What are you going to do with your hidden lives? Are you going to keep trying to live within them as an escape from your real life, or will this be the day, or the week, or the month that you finally kill that hidden life, and bury it forever in the sea of forgetfulness? Never to be remembered, retrieved, or resuscitated.

The decision is yours. The choice is yours.

You have so much to gain, or everything to lose.

 

Author’s Note: This is not aimed at anyone we know. It’s a piece I have been working on for a year, and felt this was the time to post it. If it touches someone’s heart, please act accordingly.

Doing the Right Thing

It’s what we’re supposed to do.

But sometimes doing the right thing is not the easiest thing to do.

Sometimes it’s the absolute hardest.

Especially when it involves family members that we’re at odds with from long ago clashes, misconstrued statements, and misunderstandings that we don’t even remember how they were started.

And when you try to make things right, you either don’t know where to begin, or you’re scared of your gesture of reconciliation not being accepted, or even acknowledged.

There are times you know you have to reach out, make that first step, even though you have no idea whether your attempt at reconciliation will be accepted or ignored. If it’s accepted, that’s wonderful and you can all begin that slow process of healing.

And if it’s not, then at least you did the right thing, and tried. And you can’t do any more than what you did. Because you can’t change someone’s heart.

Sometimes that person would rather stay mad than accept a gesture of reconciliation, because in their mind, they’re right; they’ve always been right, and whatever someone else did, or they perceive someone else did, things can never be made right by the other person trying to mend fences. Because if the other person gives in and accepts that reconciliation, they perceive themselves as being weak, when in reality they’re being prideful, rather than showing compassion and love.

But at least you did the right thing.

Doing the right thing can also extend to friendships and workplaces. You may have a friend whose spouse is cheating on him/her and you know it for a fact, because you’ve witnessed it on several occasions. Do you hide it, or let them know? And how do you tell them?

You may have another friend, or even a family member, whose child is involved in something dangerous, perhaps drugs or a gang. Again, you know this for a fact. What do you do? Especially knowing the severity of the problem, and if you don’t say or do something that child’s very life could be in danger. And you know if you don’t tell them, and something happens to that child that you could have prevented, you couldn’t live with yourself.

Or you may know a co-worker is stealing from your company. Not just little things like a few office supplies, but actually embezzling money. What’s the right thing to do, and how do you do it?

No, doing the right thing isn’t easy, is it?

But it’s what we’re supposed to do.

Are you facing a situation in which you know you need to do the right thing?

It’s a new year. What are you going to do about it?

Flamingos in the Snow

Being warm weather birds, flamingos aren’t real fond of snow. Or cold weather. Especially cold weather.

And being transplanted here from Florida hasn’t made them overly happy, you know.

But a flamingo’s gotta do what a flamingo’s gotta do, and if they have to move for business or personal reasons, well, they just have to make the best of it.

They actually thought Virginia Beach was going to be somewhere that was warm all year long. Isn’t that what a beach is supposed to be? That’s what they thought! But it turns out they weren’t quite correct.

They moved here last spring and immediately made themselves at home by the pool, and they were quite happy.

Until this weekend’s snow.

They really didn’t know what to think.

All this white stuff falling from the sky and sticking in their feathers. And it was cold, too! Especially on flamingo feet that were used to walking in warm sand. They ruffled their feathers and quickly borrowed scarves and knit hats, and boots of course!

Which made them feel a bit better.

But they’d already planned their day, which had not included being stuck at our house with nothing much to do except squawk about the weather.

What’s a flamingo to do except make the most of it and find ways to have fun! So since they were already dressed warm, thanks to our loaning them some winter accessories, they decided to see what this cold white frozen stuff was all about!

And also to see what they could do to at least make the best of it! Until cocktail time, at least!

First they tasted it. No flavor. But it might be useful for cocktail time. Instead of ice…

They noticed when they scooped it up it stuck together, so one bird tossed it to another, and it wasn’t long before they were having a flamingo snowball fight, laughing and squawking at each other as snowballs flew, flamingos ducked, and well, let’s just say it was interesting!
marian-mccue-on-flamingoart-net
Have you ever seen a flamingo make a snow angel? It’s really quite fascinating….

dailyjournal-comAnd of course one thing eventually led to another, and suddenly they were making snowmen…well, actually snow flamingos.

And they decided snow really wasn’t all that bad! As long as they were dressed for it!

So after a long day of snowy fun, they pulled out their favorite mugs and enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate laced with an appropriate amount of Baileys and Kahlua!

And looked forward to their next adventure!

Hopefully in warmer weather….

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Flamingo Resolutions

I hadn’t heard much from the flamingos recently, and I have to admit I was a bit surprised that I didn’t see them planning a New Year’s Eve party. After all, flamingos are party birds, and I couldn’t imagine them wasting a great opportunity to throw a really lavish party!

Then I discovered some of their friends invited them to Key West for a true pink flamingo New Years Eve bash, and of course they went! And they had such a great time they stayed a few extra days, enjoying the sun, warm weather, and great seafood! Yes, I have to admit I was jealous!

They could have at least invited us to go!!

And of course while they were there, they decided to come up with some appropriate New Years resolutions. I guess they didn’t take my advice on not making any, but they’re flamingos, and they don’t really listen to what I say anyway! They just do their own thing.

So here are their resolutions. Not too bad, for flamingos!

1 – Find more ways to cook shrimp – They get tired of the raw unseasoned shrimp they usually eat, so they’ve decided to see what kind of shrimp culinary delights they can come up with. I’d guess some types of steamed shrimp would be the best, and I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to add a touch of pink dipping sauce in the side.

Or perhaps shrimp with pink rice and some cherry tomatoes? Yes, pink rice. They’re flamingos, and they use food coloring when necessary!

They casually mentioned even putting a collection of their recipes together and publishing a cookbook! They could call it “The Flamingo Cooks”. Now there’s a resolution…! Of course I’d have to sample all the recipes.

2 – Learn to swim – With all the pool parties they attend as well as host in the summer, have you ever noticed they’re not in the pool very often? Unlike their Florida flamingo friends, our flamingos can’t swim. They have to either borrow one of our floats, or wade in the water with those long legs. So this year they’re vowing to learn to swim!

This should be interesting. I wonder what kind of swimsuits they’ll be wearing. Maybe they could also start a clothing line… maybe call it “The Fashionable Flamingo?”

3 – Improve their karaoke talents – Because of their love for parties, they also love music, and after a few flamingo pink martinis, you can find them around the karaoke machine, squawking away! Unfortunately their squawking doesn’t sound much like whatever song they’re trying to sing!

So this year they’re going to get serious about their singing and have a repertoire of songs ready for the first party of the season!

I heard them talking about learning “Wasting Away in Flamingoville” and “Just Another Flamingo Sunrise” to start with.

Any other suggestions?

4 – Have more parties – Well that goes without saying. With all of their interest in cooking, learning to swim, and their singing, naturally there’s got to be parties involved. As long as they plan them, pay for them, and clean up afterwards, they can go for it!

And one more stipulation…we have to be invited from now on. If we’re providing the pool and the house, we’re going to be there this year!

5 – Start their own business – Now I do think this one is a great idea. They’ve already talked about a cookbook, and I just thought about a clothing line, so why not their own business? After all, they’re very creative birds, and surely if they put their pink feathers together they can come up with a few more ideas?

I suggested party planning, and they seemed to like that idea. As long as they were invited and got to participate in the fun, of course! They even came up with a couple of names, like “The Party Birds” or “Parties in the Pink”. Hmmmm…they may need a little help with the name…

But the one idea they really started flapping around about was an interior design business. After all, they had a great time decorating around the holidays, and I have to admit they did a great job!

Of course, their decorating talents would be very specific. They don’t decorate in that classic, understated elegance that many people enjoy. Their rooms are whimsical, and, well, sometimes a bit “out there” as we should best describe it.

They’d be perfect for specializing in Florida rooms or sunrooms, nurseries, and children’s bedrooms…especially girls’ rooms, since they’re naturally into pink. Big time into pink, as you know!

We even thought about a few names for the business, “The Designing Flamingos”, “The Flashy Flamingos”, or my favorite. “Rooms with a Feather”. Well, maybe the names need a little work, but you get the idea.

So which resolutions will the flamingos keep? Hard to say. After all, they’re flamingos, and a bit flighty. So you just never know.

But I’ll keep you informed!

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Will It…or Won’t It?

1-3 inches. No. A light dusting. No. Up to five inches. No. Maybe two inches. Wait….it’s looking like 8-12 inches. Or….a blizzard, since we just got that warning across our phones!

Who knows? When it comes to predicting snow, there’s really no way to know.

Until it happens.

The last two days have been crazy with weather alerts going off every couple of hours. Predictions changing with every alert. Because no one really knows whether we’re getting snow or not, or if we do, how much will be in store for us. How long the schools will be closed, and we know they will be; even the mere threat of snow closes them around here, or at least closes them early.

As my husband said the other night, “If there were such a thing as reincarnation, I’d come back as a weatherman so I could get paid for being wrong.” Because no matter how well we think we can tell what’s going to happen, we really don’t know…until it happens.

Weather, like our everyday lives, is unpredictable. We have no idea what’s really going to happen until it does. We can plan, and make arrangements for the things that may occur, but in the end we have no idea what’s going to happen until it does.

We could have a light dusting of snow, a few inches, or several inches (like half a foot!) that would drastically impact everything in our area. Or we could get nothing at all.

That’s how life is. We think we know what’s going to happen. So we ignore warning signs. Sometimes it works out, and the warnings were a fluke. Sometimes they’re right on, and if we’d ignored the warnings, we’d be in a bad situation. Or sometimes we do ignore them, with unpleasant consequences.

But we need to be prepared for circumstances that we can’t control. Certainly weather is one of them, but we also need to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances in our lives that can dramatically change our entire future.

That’s not being negative. It’s being wise.

We prepare for an upcoming snowstorm, or hurricane, by making sure we have the groceries we need, batteries in case the power goes, filling our vehicles with gas, being sure our heating systems are working properly, and in some cases making sure generators are fueled and ready. And if it’s snow that’s predicted, we storm the stores for snow shovels and ice melt, and get mad at the store personnel because there’s none left. Well, it’s not their fault, is it, that we waited til the last minute?

So why don’t we prepare for other things in our life that could impact us, and for a much longer period of time than a few days of snow? Why do we sometimes wait til the last minute to try to make preparations and then get upset with others because of our own procrastination?

I have no answers, but it’s something to think about.

When Busy-ness Takes Over Your Life

It’s already started. All the commitments, all the plans starting to fill up my 2017 calendar.

But then I started to think about what I’d written last year. About busy-ness. Not business. Busy-ness. Being busy all the time, but getting nowhere, accomplishing nothing.

It all started last year with a post from an acquaintance about how busy busy busy they’d been. Doing this, doing that. No wonder we hadn’t seen them in ages. Plans were half made but never confirmed. Either something else always came up, or time just marched in and changed things in its own inimitable way. Plans were juggled here and there, and eventually just fell thru the cracks into an abyss, and nothing was ever done. Sadly that’s still the case. With several acquaintances.

We’re all guilty of that, though.

Many times we think our busy-ness is for all the right reasons. “We had to volunteer at church for this or that.”

“I know we made plans, but this meeting came up, and we felt guilty because even though we’d made other plans, this is really important, and we couldn’t say no. I hope you understand.”

Or, “We arranged to take our parents to dinner, but then someone called and asked us to help them with a project that same night, so we re-scheduled our parents, and I guess we hurt their feelings because they said they guessed they weren’t as important as our friends.”

Or how about, “We ‘forgot’ to discuss plans with our spouse, and he/she had already made plans for that same night. So we’ll pick another night.”

Or we have plans for a big project we want to accomplish. Something we’ve wanted to do for quite a while. We talk about it all the time, but talk doesn’t accomplish what we keep saying we’re going to do. Something else always comes up, and we lose our focus.

And it never happens.

Busy-ness. Or, busy-mess as I just accidentally typed. But it fits!

Remember the song “Cat’s in the Cradle”? That line, “I’d love to if I can find the time.” The dad in the song never did, and because that’s how he was raised, neither did his son. It was always, “but we’ll get together soon. And we’re gonna have a good time then.”

We’re all busy with our lives. My previous job took me away from home 11 hours a day, and I was always exhausted by the time I got home, and when the weekend came around I didn’t want to do anything. It wasn’t fair to me or my family. Now that I have a new job I truly enjoy which is only a short half hour commute each way, I’ve actually been able to catch up on the things I missed out on. Some things fortunately waited patiently for me, but sadly, others didn’t.

Those are the things I miss the most. The ones I cannot recapture. The missed opportunities. We mean well. We say let’s do this or that, but we don’t always follow up. And then one day we realize people we really cared about are out of our lives. And we didn’t even realize it. Or the things we really wanted to do have been on the back burner so long we just give up, because we don’t think we’ll ever have enough time to do them. And another opportunity is missed, because we were just too busy, with things that actually weren’t all that important when we look back on them.

That’s unfortunately how life is these days. We don’t make the time we need for ourselves, or for those closest to us, because we’re torn in so many directions by other things, usually things really not as important as we think they are.

Maybe the busy-ness is a substitute for something missing in our own lives. Maybe we think we’re only liked, only appreciated, only useful if we try to do everything everybody else wants us to do. But most of the time that thinking is at the expense of ourselves…and our friends and family. We can’t be everything for everybody all the time. Because then there’s nothing left for ourselves.

Think about it. What’s important to you? Who’s important to you? Now what are you going to do about it?

Is your busy-ness going to keep you running in several directions at once, or are you going to take the time to slow down and re-think your priorities? Before it’s too late.

Take time to smell the roses, and the gardenias. Walk in the rain with someone you love. Enjoy a quiet dinner with friends and laugh at each others’ jokes until your stomachs hurt. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and renew a fading friendship. If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents around, go visit them. Play a game of catch with your children or grandchildren. Be spontaneous instead of filling up your calendar weeks in advance, with no nights free.

Those meetings can wait. Someone else can coordinate that luncheon. The world won’t stop if you say “no” to being on one more committee.

But your world will begin to change. And you’ll wonder why you ever let all that busy-ness take over your life. And suddenly, you’ll have a life again.

It’s a new year. Start it off right!

New Year, Same Old You

If I read one more article, one more post about it being a new year and how “I’m going to be a new person this year!” or “I’m changing everything this year!” I think I’ll scream!

Is no one happy with who they are? Is no one happy with their life? Even any part of their life? Why do we continually look at other people’s lives and decide if our lives were just like that, then we’d be happy? And do you realize those people you think you want to be like actually look at other people and feel the same way?

Everyone seems to want to make all these changes in their life, their circumstances, themselves. And it seems they think all it takes is a date on the calendar to make those changes. As if by magic, turning the month from December to January will transform them into exactly who they want to be, or think they want to be.

Is it really that simple? Can a piece of paper that proclaims it’s a new month in a new year suddenly change your entire life? Your entire YOU?

I think not. Because there’s a lot more to it than just saying, “I’m going to be different in this new year. I’m going to stop thinking this way, and start thinking that way.”

“I’m not going to do XXX anymore.”

“The new me is going to be so much better! I’m going to enjoy life so much more because….”

Because of a date on the calendar?

Suddenly that’s going to change you from the person you’ve been for years into the new person you picture yourself becoming?

It isn’t that easy. You don’t just automatically wake up one morning and become a totally different person, with different thoughts, different attitudes, different ideas. Sure we try, and for a while, it actually may work.

But then we find ourselves going back to our same old self, with our same ideas, same attitudes, same prejudices. And sometimes we don’t even notice.

Why? Because change isn’t done overnight. It’s a process. It has to come from within; first from our hearts, and then from our head. Our hearts must want to make changes, and if our heart is sincere, then our heads, our thinking, can go along with it.

But you’re never going to totally change everything about yourself. Because who you are, is who you are. No matter how much you want to become someone else, there’s always going to be certain parts of you that will stay the same. Certainly you can improve yourself, change your ideas and your attitudes, but you’ll always be yourself.

You cannot totally become someone else. Because you’re you. Sure, you may eventually make changes in your life for the better, and people may say the like the “new you” a lot better.

But you are still who you are. You’re not, and never will be, that other person you may envy so much and want to be exactly like. You were uniquely created; there’s only one you. You are the only person in the entire world with your own unique fingerprints, your own unique DNA. No one else will ever be exactly like you. Even identical twins have subtle differences, not only in appearance, but in ideas, thoughts, and attitudes.

God created you just like He wanted you to be. Who are you to say He was wrong?

For myself, I actually like who I am. It’s taken me years to come to that realization, and I do believe that such a realization actually comes with getting older, or should I say, more mature? I am who I am, even though I am a work in progress, and always will be. I accept me for who I am, and I hope other people do as well.

And once again for this new year, I’m still going to be me. I may develop new ideas, new attitudes. I will probably make some new friends, and go to some new places. My hairstyle may even change.

But I’m still going to be me.